Is Mel Gibson's The Passion "pious pornography" or devotional artistry? The lead-off essays in this collection, by popular Jesus researcher John Dominic Crossan and British New Testament scholar Mark Goodacre, will remind readers that on this question, as with nearly everything connected with Jesus of Nazareth, scholars can be depended upon to disagree. For Crossan, The Passion presents a "vision of a savage God" animated by anti-Semitism (Jesus and his disciples are never shown wearing yarmulkes, whereas the Jewish leaders are). For Goodacre, the film can be seen as "an extraordinarily powerful vision" in which the anti-Semitic tendencies of Gibson's sources have been muted (Gibson presents the sympathetic figure of Simon as a Jew, though some traditional sources have identified him as a pagan). Unfortunately, the remaining essays in this book, by an even-handed assortment of scholars, rarely equal Crossan's and Goodacre's incisive arguments. Nearly all the writers concur on a few points: Gibson adds and subtracts freely from the gospel texts, and depends heavily on the 19th-century mystic Catherine Emmerich. Ultimately, they say, his work must be judged as art, not history. But these nuggets of insight are obscured by pedantic writing and wooden interpretations that rarely do justice to Gibson's own passionate, provocative filmmaking. (Aug.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
With the surprising and long-lasting popularity of Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, there is every reason to expect that this solid collection of 14 scholarly and well-argued articles about the film will receive attention as well. The editors have commissioned scholars from Jewish, Protestant, and Catholic perspectives from the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States. In the first part, the film is examined as a complete viewing experience. John Dominic Crossan's "Hymn to a Savage God" presents a critical point of view, while Mark Goodacre offers a relatively positive spin in "The Power of The Passion of the Christ." The second part deals with the film's characterization and plot as well as the portrayal of Satan, the depiction of female characters, and the characterization of Judas. The third and final part examines artistic influences on the film, comparing it with previous Jesus films, classic artistic representations of the Passion, and Anne Catherine Emmerich's The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ. The first thorough investigation of the movie, this is highly recommended for both public and academic libraries.-John Jaeger, Dallas Baptist Univ. Lib. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.